How to Adjust Your Curriculum
How to Adjust Your Curriculum
By Heather Laurie
During my first year of homeschooling I bought a simple set of preschool workbooks and a few additional books. We started immediately with expectations higher than the sun and lesson plans—to the day—for the entire year. There were problems within days of starting, and within weeks my daughter and I were both frustrated and not enjoying learning one bit. Learning was not happening, definitely not happening on my time schedule, and that was increasing my anxiety, causing me to pressure my daughter more and more each day.
Something had to change, so I bought a new, more expensive, boxed set with a teacher’s guide, mostly because I was beginning to think that the problems were occurring because I could not teach a 4-year-old how to count or the basics of reading. It was my fault.
That curriculum worked for some subjects but not for others. I focused on what we were missing rather than on what we were getting correct and deemed this curriculum a failure as well. I delved into our slim bank account and bought yet another set of books—another teacher’s guide (this time on DVD), along with full texts, workbooks, and test booklets for my preschooler. I was lost and floundering.
I spent more on my daughter’s preschool year than I did for the next three years total! I do not recommend trying that frustrating and expensive path. Frankly, today most of us don’t have a budget that can handle that many changes in a year.
I am not telling you how you should homeschool or even encouraging you to use any particular style of homeschooling. Research to identify the style of home education you are most comfortable with. However, I would like to help you with the learning material you choose, explaining how to adjust your curriculum and make it the best it can be for your family. Let’s work together to find some ways to make the material you have in hand or can get free work for your homeschool!
First, in my experience, not everything is broken. While some workbooks didn’t fit my daughter’s abilities well, some did. When we moved on to the boxed curriculum set, some material was easy to use and my daughter liked it. Use the things that work well. The old motto “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” offers great advice!
Minor adjustments that don’t require a lot of time and effort on the parent’s part
- Homeschooling curricula can be derived from public school/private school materials. It can therefore include an abundance of busy work. For example, an entire page of simple multiplication problems is most likely going to bore or frustrate a homeschooled child. Have your child do the evens or only a set number of problems. The goal is to show that they know how to multiply. Continue practicing this vital skill each day.
If your child is highly distractible, having those shiny pictures in the science book could be distracting him completely from the lesson at hand. Having a page full of different phonics problems could keep pulling his attention away from what you are working on. Use a dark piece of paper to cover the rest of the page, to stop the wandering eyes and help your child stay focused.
If you have a child/teen who needs to know how this material relates to the real world, use the library. Oftentimes in the teen years you see a slow-down because teens can become diploma-blinded. They begin wanting to know only what they have to in order to receive a diploma instead of embracing the long-term perspective of learning what will equip them to enjoy a wonderful life. Books on the topics you are learning can show real-world applications to encourage learning.
When your child’s learning is more significantly impacted and modification of your material is a must
- Take your lesson plans and erase the dates or cover them. Your child may need more time to learn the material, and homeschooling gives you that freedom! Fretting about the dates will only cause frustration that could affect your children as well. Keep the goals; ditch the specific dates related to those goals!
Some children need time and breaks to soak in new material and concepts. When we learn a new concept like division, we work hard on it for about three weeks and then take a one-week break to do a unit study. The break is a reward for doing so well and provides time to let that information sink deeply into the child’s thinking before we move on to the next step.
There are times, because of learning disabilities, when it may seem that a child is struggling in many areas of learning, but that may not actually be true. My daughter has dyslexia and was struggling with reading, though it appeared that she was struggling with history, geography, science—any subject that was reading-based. When I adjusted my approach to teaching those subjects, for example, by using audio books or reading the books out loud (in person or on tape for her independent study), she began excelling in those areas.
Your child or teen is having serious issues that could be causing frustration, anxiety, or resistance to learning altogether—the parent must therefore devote more and more time just to get through a week of learning
- There are times when a resource you have chosen is at the wrong grade level for your child (no matter what the cover says!). Choose appropriate resources based on your child’s ability and understanding, first and foremost. Do not let this discourage you. I have set aside books for a year or two and later would come back to use them quite successfully.
Go very slowly, using printouts from online sources to expand each lesson. This is especially helpful for children who are slower learners. Proceed at your child’s natural pace of learning.
Be persistent and patient with your child. Never stop teaching. It can help to keep a record of work throughout the year, including the dates when studies of new concepts or subjects are introduced and completed. I often think, “We didn’t get very far this year,” . . . until I pull out my records of all the work for the year and look it over from beginning to end. I also love to share that record with my children so they, too, can see the fruit of their hard work!
Homeschooling allows us to adjust and rework our curricula. Adjusting your curriculum is not wrong. It can be just the thing that helps get your homeschooling year back on track. Making adjustments can also help you save money. The next time things are not going as planned and you think you need some help with your homeschooling resources, I hope you consider adjusting your curriculum before you try replacing it!
Heather Laurie is a wife and mother to five children and three angels. She and her children have a mitochondrial disease that leaves them dealing with a variety of medical and learning disabilities. Heather is a speaker, writer, and all-around homeschooling cheerleader! You can contact her at www.specialneedshomeschooling.com.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.